How to Feel Less Tired During the Day

Expert Advice to Fight Fatigue

While it’s normal to have an occasional sleepy day, staggering through life looking for a bottomless coffee pot or regularly fantasizing about crawling into bed is not so sustainable. Ongoing exhaustion can take a toll on both your physical and mental well-being. We had expert weight in on how to feel less tired during the day for two primary scenarios: ongoing chronic fatigue and the occasional off-day.

When Battling Chronic Fatigue

If your fatigue is consistent, there are a handful of primary contributing culprits. getting poor sleep (from either poor habits or sleep disorders), having subpar nutritional intake, and/or not getting enough exercise.

Evaluate Your Sleep Schedule

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and those 65 and up get seven to eight.

Children should get even more sleep, with newborns needing 14 to 17 hours, infants needing 12 to 15, toddlers needing 11 to 14, preschoolers needing 10 to 13, school-aged children needing 9 to 11, and teenagers needing 8 to 10.

Though some people can technically get less sleep and still feel great, the majority of us do not function at peak levels unless we’re consistently getting the recommended number of hours.

This sleep is best uninterrupted, so if you find yourself waking up through the night, then make adjustments accordingly. For example, if your partner snores then it may be best to sleep in separate rooms or utilize earplugs until their snoring has been remedied. Other ways to help ensure deeper sleep is to take a warm shower before bed, keep your room cool, wear comfortable garments, and avoid electronics before going to sleep. You can even try simulating nightfall to help lull you into sleep.

"About an hour before your bedtime, start gradually dimming the lights in your home. This includes overhead and bright lights and all your devices," says Heather Turgeon, a psychotherapist, sleep specialist, and author of The Happy Sleeper and Now Say This.

Turgeon says, "This helps your melatonin levels rise, making it easier to fall asleep. Combine this with a regular bedtime and you’ll start feeling better rested during the day.”

Another often-overlooked energy-zapper is hitting the snooze button repeatedly. Though it may seem like you're doing yourself a favor by getting an extra six minutes of sleep, the reality is that this only gives you enough time to lightly doze off without reaching restorative sleep, only to be jolted back awake. You’re better off getting up at the time you initially set out to, or better yet, when your body naturally rises. By consistently going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, you can create an "internal alarm clock."

Adjust Your Diet

The foods you put into your body isn’t just a matter of trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight. Nutrition hinders you from getting a good night’s sleep, can impact your mental clarity throughout the day, and can affect general fatigue.

As a general rule of thumb, foods high in sugar and carbs won’t fuel your body as efficiently as proteins, vegetables, and fruits. It’s also best to eat whole and raw foods versus processed foods.

“Low glycemic index foods include whole grains, high-fiber fruits, nuts, and healthy oils, including olive, avocado, and sesame oils. Also, most of the proteins and fats are zero in the glycemic index,” says Marina Yuabova, a family nurse practitioner and assistant professor at City University of New York.

She adds that simple carbs are high in glycemic index, and therefore cause a spike in sugar and insulin. Examples of simple carbs include sugar, corn syrup, and glucose, fructose, and sucrose. These are often found in sugary pastries (such as muffins, donuts, and cupcakes), many breakfast cereals, candy, sugar-laden coffee drinks such as frappuccinos and caramel macchiatos, sodas, “enhanced” fruit juices, and more.

Also, while carbs don't have to be completely off-limits, it’s important to monitor your intake.

“Having too many carbohydrates in one sitting can leave you feeling tired and lethargic,” says Brittany Modell, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University.

"Try opting for one serving of beans, legumes, or whole grains," Modell says. Combine the above with lean proteins and nutrient-dense foods, such as eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, whole-wheat toast, Greek yogurt, cheeses, whole fruits, and whole veggies. The result will be sustained energy levels versus a sugar crash cycle.

In addition to eating well, getting enough water is also important if you want to feel less tired throughout the day. Yuabova says, “Water is the only nutrient that has been demonstrated to improve performance for all. If your body is deprived of water, a sense of exhaustion is one of the first symptoms. Everyone should consume eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day.” 

Exercise Regularly

Though it may seem like exercising would drain your body of energy, that’s not the case. More consistent exercise—even if it’s as simple as walking around the block—will help increase your metabolism, improve your mood, and help you sleep better at night.

“When we sit around for a long period of time [or simply don’t get enough exercise], our heart rate slows down, our blood gets still, and we feel tired,” says Harrison Fischer, who holds a certificate in nutrition and wellbeing from Cornell University. “If we get up and do some jumping jacks or move around, we increase our heart rate and instantly feel re-energized. You can do this as many times throughout the day as necessary.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of exercise every week. Though this may seem overwhelming, it equates to roughly 30 minutes a day five times a week.

Quick Tricks to Energize

Sometimes fatigue is simply the result of a singular terrible night’s sleep, and we’ve all probably been there. Maybe you hardly slept because your baby kept you up all night, perhaps you were up late studying for an exam or trying to meet an important work deadline, or maybe you had a fun evening that lingered into the twilight hours.

Whatever the case, these “pick-me-up” tricks can help increase mental alertness and energy levels throughout the day.

Go for a Walk

“Many office jobs require us to be stationed at our desk for most of the day. Walking breaks can help energize you,” says Modell. “Instead of ordering lunch to work, consider taking a short walk to pick up lunch instead. You can also turn your meeting into a walking meeting so you can get some steps in while you are still working.”

Another pro tip is to walk to fill up your water bottle—you’ll get two good behaviors in for the price of one.

Get Some Sunshine

“The morning sun presses ‘go’ on your internal clock and is the most powerful time of day to be exposed to sunlight since it resets your circadian system,” says Turgeon. “If there's no sun, then use a sun-simulating light or alarm clock.” Even positioning yourself next to a bright window during the day can help you feel less tired.

Stretch Out

Similarly to walking, Modell says that stretching can also help energize you during the day and clear some brain fog. Stand up and take three to five minutes to stretch.

Take a Quick Shower

If you’ve got access to a shower, a quick dip can give you an adrenaline rush. Another option is to splash some cold water on your face or your arms.

Try a Short Nap

If your body and brain simply aren't functioning well, opt for a 20 to 30 minute power nap. Assuming that you follow a fairly normal nighttime sleep schedule, prime time for power naps is typically in the middle of the day from about 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  If this becomes a regular habit, or you just can't function without a nap, it's important to alert your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you're dealing with a poor night's sleep or ongoing fatigue, it's important to understand how vital it is to sleep. In addition to feeling physically and mentally sluggish all day long, poor sleep can contribute to weight gain, lowered immunity, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of heart problems, depression, increased risk of accidents, and impaired thinking, memory, and general mood. If you suspect you might have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, it's best to consult a doctor who can assess, diagnose, and treat you.

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